Art Ensemble of Chicago
Hippies. They seem to come up with the most nonsensical names for things. I mean, ganja goo-ball? Aoxomoxoa? The Constitution? Come on. Get a job. It may please you to know, however, that the longhairs that came up with the variety of bottled fruit smoothies branded Odwalla got the name from the title of the tune that closes out jungle-art-jazz combo Art Ensemble of Chicago’s live album Bap-Tizum. At first listen, much of this disc, recorded at the 1972 Ann Arbor Jazz and Blues Festival, is discordant; maybe at times a little scary. Yet it seems, like a Cadillac with a driver who’s three-quarters in the bag, to weave between inspired, improvised jazz and primal humming/screaming/throat-clearing. It’s one of the gutsiest and most innovative records in my collection, right up there with Trout Mask Replica (I’m not sure which is more palatable). The track “Odwalla” is one of the record’s stronger, more straightforward tunes; a finger-snap-conducive cut that has more of a musical narrative than its neighbors. Try this at home: blast Bap-Tizum at full capacity when you have a nauseatingly square visitor or house guest and see how long it takes them to split.
Malaclypse the Younger and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst
While most humans have thus far failed to recognize the detrimental failure that results from buying into organized religion, a small cluster of them have recognized the brilliance and value of adhering to disorganized religion. In the fifth edition’s forward, Ravenhurst writes that “if organized religion is the opium of the masses, then disorganized religion is the marijuana of the lunatic fringe.” One of the most important functions religions like Discordianism serve is that of exposing how silly and archaic the world’s top faiths tend to be. For example, Discordian doctrine renders eating hot dog buns on Friday an offense of the highest order. But there is much more to this religion than what it is not. The anti-religion’s chief deity is the goddess Eris, the Greek goddess of strife (whose Latin name is, of course, Discordia). Her sister, Aneris, represents order and harmony. Discordians distinguish disorder from chaos and stress that order and disorder, like the deities themselves, are human-made constructs imposed on chaos.
“September 1, 1939”
You know how at a concert, when the band leaves the stage and there’s that moment when you’re not sure if they’re going to do an encore, every fifth person throws his or her arm into the air and ignites a lighter? For a moment, before people start to burn their thumbs, the image of all of those lighters is analogous to the collective impact of individual expression, of art, of protest. Then, the band comes back on stage and plays the song everyone has been waiting to hear. A cultural revolution occurs. A war ends. This is the image I get when reading the two final stanzas of this lengthy free-form poem, which Auden wrote in the early days of WWII. The bulk of the poem snakes through wars and other insane, chaotic and brutal historical events, and its structure—on the surface haphazard—reflects the chaos of the string of events he’s describing. Yet it ends with a message of hope. The author wishes to “show an affirming flame” while “our world in stupor lies.” The crux of this poem is embodied by the line “we must love one another or die.” MTW